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    Sleep is so important for overall health and wellness. But, for many, a good night’s rest is increasingly elusive. This can wreak havoc on one’s relationships, daily functioning, and longevity. If you’re struggling with getting enough sleep, or proper sleep, sleep medicine may be able to help.


    What Does Sleep Medicine Involve?


    Sleep medicine is a medical specialty focused on diagnosing and treating a broad range of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia, nightmares, sleepwalking, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and circadian rhythm disorders. Most of these specialists train in internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, or neurology during residency. After completing residency, they then complete a fellowship program in sleep medicine.


    Dr. Usha Nandhini, a sleep medicine physician at Pullman Regional Hospital, finds the field to be fascinating—and one that’s rapidly evolving.


    “Studying sleep and sleep disorders is very exciting, as each individual has a unique sleep architecture. What's also very interesting is how sleep profoundly impacts one's emotional and physical wellbeing. And, getting a good night’s sleep is on everyone's wish list. Helping patients feel better by addressing their sleep issues is highly rewarding and wonderful,” she shares.


    Best Candidates for Sleep Medicine Interventions


    Who should seek out the help of a sleep medicine specialist?

    “I would say anyone who has a particular problem with sleep, which has been going on for a while or if they do not get the quality or quantity of sleep they need to feel rested and energetic during the day. The good news is, many sleep disorders can be resolved or mediated with the correct diagnosis and treatment,” assures Dr. Nandhini.


    Upon seeking help, individuals can work to avoid long-term consequences, such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, mood disorders, and obesity. “By evaluating and managing sleep disorders—and educating patients on their sleep hygiene practices—I can help them achieve good quality sleep, which will lead to increased productivity at work, improved mood and relationships, and better long-term health,” she adds.


    Even pediatric patients can benefit from sleep medicine. Dr. Nandhini explains that treatment is a whole-family approach, tailoring an approach that best addresses symptoms with a “team-based” solution.


    Healthy Sleep Habits


    There are specific measures individuals can take on their own to try to improve their quality of sleep. Dr. Nandhini urges everyone to turn off electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, iPads, television) at least one hour before heading to bed. Reading a “hard copy” book is fine, as long as the content is not too stimulating. She advises sticking to a consistent sleep schedule—waking and going to bed at the same time each day—even on the weekends.


    Also, try to avoid heavy meals and alcohol two hours before bedtime. “Even though alcohol can make you sleepy, it is known to cause sleep disruption,” notes Dr. Nandhini. Consuming non-alcoholic liquids can also interrupt sleep, if doing so causes people to get up during the night to urinate.


    That said, if you’re able to fall back asleep quickly, it’s not as severe of a problem as if it takes more than 20 minutes to resume slumber. “That would be something we need to evaluate further; why it is taking somebody so long to fall back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night,” she adds.


    Ultimately, anything you can do to improve your sleep—whether it’s adjusting your sleep habits or enlisting the help of a sleep medicine specialist—is going to benefit your health immensely. “Practicing good sleep hygiene is quintessential in getting a night of restful sleep,” concludes Dr. Nandhini.


    To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dr. Usha Nandhini, a sleep medicine physician at Pullman Regional Hospital, follow this link:

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